For three years we lived in London and I avoided driving. I couldn’t have been happier to be without a car. But now we are back and every day I feel like I am spending more and more of my time behind the wheel avoiding or being slowed down by other cars, pedestrians and cyclists. It is easy to become frustrated. It is easy to forget that the people in those cars or crossing that road in the cross walk or riding on their bicycles are all out there for a reason as well. But we need to make sure we stay focused and watch out for each other as well travel our local roads.
As I sat in the theater with my family Sunday afternoon, I received an email that had me heading for the lobby – Cyclist Hit by Pickup Truck in Pasadena. Pasadena resident Ben McKeown had forwarded me the email after reading seeing it on his cycling club’s distribution list.
Jeff Schomig, a member of the Severna Park Peloton rides through the roads in Pasadena on a regular basis. Generally, he is joined by several members of the Peloton but on Sunday he was riding on his own.
As he was heading down Magothy Bridge approaching the intersection of Magothy Bridge and Soaper Avenue, he noticed a full-sized black pickup truck approaching the stop sign at the corner. Though Schomig did not have a stop sign, he did what he has been taught for safety and made eye contact with the driver, waved and shouted thanks before continuing into the intersection.
When he was about a yard from the truck, the driver of the pickup revved his engine and headed out directly in front of him. Though Schomig put on his brakes he was still clipped by the bed of the truck, knocked into the gravel and lost control of his bike, finally tumbling to the ground.
According to Mr. Schomig, the truck then slowed down, the driver looked back long enough to see that he was getting to his feet and then took off again. After assessing his injuries and making sure his bike was still intact, Schomig contacted the police.
“I was really impressed with their response,” Schomig said. “When the officer showed up I could hear over his radio all of the other officers who were trying to find the driver and the effort that was going into it.”
Unfortunately, the driver was not found.
Schomig’s initial reaction was that the driver was playing games. He didn’t believe the driver meant to hit him but at the tie he thought he had meant to scare him. Since then though, with a calmer head, he thinks there is a possibility that it really was an accident. But, like the rest of my cycling friends, Schomig believes there is a lot that drivers and cyclists can do to make the roads safer for each other.
First, he thinks it is really important for cyclists to be predictable. In many cases this is easier said than done. While there are sometimes shoulders for cyclists to ride on there is often debris in them that causes a rider to have to swerve back into the road. The three foot law that recently went into place should help this situation. If we, as drivers can give the cyclists a three foot berth when passing them, they have more room for error.
Schomig made a second point as well. “I don’t think drivers understand just how fast a cyclist can go on a road bike and just what that means when it comes to stopping.”
One of the greatest dangers cyclists face is a car that pulls out in front of them. Sometimes it is at an intersection but often it is during a right hand turn. Cyclists on road bikes are riding fifteen miles an hour at the low end but many cyclists in this area ride well above that. Being aware of that and avoiding heading in front of them could save their lives.
As a final note before we ended our conversation, Schomig offered to share the route the cyclists ride most often through Pasadena. It is his hope that by being aware that cyclists are on these roads, drivers will take more care when traveling them. You can find the route the club travels through Pasadena at Map My Ride.